2.2 million faces of motherhood

Categories: Push my Button

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Hi there. I am a non custodial mother. What does that mean? It means I don’t live with my kids. I don’t make their grilled cheese sandwiches. I don’t sign off on their homework. I don’t tuck them in at night. And I chose — willingly — to move 3000 miles away from them and let their dad be the primary parent-in-residence.

Who would do such a thing?

Last month I sat in a chair opposite ABC 20/20’s Elizabeth Vargas and she asked me that very question. Why would a mother leave her children? Elizabeth is a lovely woman. She is a mother. She fussed over flyaways in her hair before the cameras rolled. She wore a royal blue slim sheath no bigger around than a curvy pencil and charmingly commented on how skinny *I* was when we stood up after the interview. She seemed like many women I know and I liked her very much. But when she put on her Interviewer Face, I think she spoke for people who cannot fathom why a mother would stand back from her children without a gun to her head.
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This week’s best baby video

Categories: Guilt Inducers

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Hi there. I’ll bet you wanted to know this week’s Awesomest Mommy Thing, didn’t you? If this video — a gorgeous weekly chronicle of baby Lotte’s evolution from birth to age 12 — doesn’t make you:

1) appreciate your kids even more than you did yesterday,

2) wish you had taken way more baby pictures,

then I don’t know what will. Other responses below.

[I tried 20 times to embed the video here. No luck. Click link and come back!]

Lotte, Birth To Age 12 <–this is the video link!

Dear Ovaries,

Give it a rest. Flipping every time you see a cute baby on YouTube? Stop it. Right now.

Signed,

Mother of Four.

~~~

Dear Parents Who Think Ahead,

I hate you. No, wait. I love you. But I hate that you have 4,388 photos of your baby, all neatly catalogued and

stored in fuchsia shoebox storage containers that line the top shelf of your walk-in closet (a closet the size of Rhode Island, I might add, which is reason enough for envy). Plus you can spell fuchsia without Googling it.

P

lease stop posting awesome videos of your children (videos that you have been planning for TWELVE YEARS, let’s be real here) that make the rest of us look bad. I’ll bet you never dropped your iPhone in the toilet either. And you have a clean house.

Signed,

The Rest of Us.

~~~

Father Frans Hofmeester filmed his daughter Lotte weekly for twelve years, then edited the whole thing. Lotte talks a lot. And her hair changes frequently. I adore the whole thing. You?

Dear Younger Me: 4 things I wish I knew back then

Categories: This is Supposed to Be Fun

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If I had access to a time machine, you can bet I’d go back and things things differently. I’d give Mrs. Morton a piece of my mind over that bogus D on my 8th grade English paper. I wouldn’t quit my lead in my 12th grade play even though I was cast opposite a 10th grader with bad breath and looked like a Muppet. And that summer between 10th and 11th grade? I’d do something — anything, really — other than sitting by the phone waiting for a certain boy to call and playing my Best of Bread album over and over. I’d say yes more often. I’d let people help me. I’d believe in my gifts. I’d have way more fun.

But alas, no time machine. No TARDIS.

We can go back in time without a time machine. Okay, maybe not literally. But I’ve decided to write a letter to my younger self and tell her the things I think she needs to know. And then I’m going to make sure I tell my daughter every single one of these things. Just in case she didn’t already get the memo.
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Kids: activists for social change

Categories: Push my Button

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News flash: your kid is a budding activist and probably has plans to change the world. I’m not talking about the glint of Total World Domination, like tiny laser beams of MUAHAHAHA, that can be seen in every toddler’s eye. Nope, once kids reach the age of 5 or so, suddenly they’re all sparkly rainbow unicorns and hand-holding kumbayah. They see the world as a vast Playground of Awesome and they want to make sure we all live there. I really hope they succeed.

Examples:
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Kids have not slept enough for 100 years

Categories: Push my Button

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New evidence suggests what we parents have long suspected — kids are not actually human. They are robots programmed to look and act human. BUT THEY DO NOT SLEEP. Dead giveaway. Robots don’t sleep. How else can we explain 112 years of sleep studies, all saying that kids don’t get enough sleep?

Oh, sure. We can decry societal ills and the hectic pace of modern living all day long. We can blame technogeeks for creating the Xbox, so kids are forced to play video games into the wee hours. We can blame schools for assigning ceiling-high piles of homework every night so kids have to stay up memorizing facts about the Punic Wars. We can — as our forebears did 100 years ago — blame dear Mr. Edison for inventing the light bulb so that we not only burn candles at both ends but also scoff at the power of the Greek god Helios, who nightly drives a chariot pulling the sun into the ocean (what? you haven’t seen this dude?).

But all that blame simply shifts attention away from the sad fact that CHILDREN ARE ROBOTS.

Or…wait. It could mean that we don’t really know how much sleep kids should get. We guess but we’re not sure. In fact, here’s something interesting — suggested sleep needs for kids varies by country. Which tells me that it’s really one huge guessing game, flavored by social expectations (Japanese kids, for instance, are expected to fall asleep in class because they’ve stayed up late studying the night before — how do you like that?).

So here’s my suggestion. Throw sleep studies out the window. Track your kid (or robot, whatever, who am I to judge robots?). Does he/she fall asleep in school? Does he/she wake up easily in the morning? What about bedtime — easy or hard to fall asleep? Are you a Napping Family? My guess is that no two kids have exactly the same needs. Trying to cram them into one big Sleep Needs box seems ridiculous.

How to find out if your kid needs more sleep? Start with the suggested rule of thumb. According to the National Sleep Foundation, babies between the ages of 3 to 11 months should sleep for a total of 14 to 15 hours. Toddlers between 1 to 3 years old should get 12 to 14 hours. Preschoolers need 11 to 13 hours, and elementary schoolers should sleep between 10 to 11 hours. Older children and teens need a minimum of 8½ hours. So they say. (Actual robots need less.)

And then track. Gauge whininess and tantrums. Ask your kid. Notice if he/she does a dinnertime faceplant into his/her mashed potatoes. Experiment with earlier and later bedtimes. And do your best to harness the piles of homework and Xbox abuse into manageable pre-bedtime bits.

And try not to think about your kid being a robot.

Are French mothers better?

Categories: Bad Parenting, Parents in the Media

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Trust the French to take something we Americans think we do great at and make it better. Like food. You like french fries, right? In France they’re called frites: delectably long super-skinny bites of salty potato-y crispness. Terribly addictive. Impossible to turn down. Totes yum.

Now the French have turned their attention to mothering. OMG! French mothers rock. They have this mothering thing down, it would seem. And you know what hurts worse? Turns out they’ve been rocking the mother thing for years and we just didn’t notice.
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Kids should hear bad news too

Categories: Mommy Angst

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My Parenting Mistake #1542 was not telling my kids about 9/11 until years after it happened.

Not telling them made sense at the time. We were a Waldorf School family. All that terrible day at my kids’ Pennsylvania school there was intense whispering in the halls — teachers and parents trying to make sense of a world suddenly falling apart. Figuring out What To Tell The Children.

In the end, school officials opted to ask us parents to tell our kids nothing. This was a burden adults should bear alone, they said. So I went home with my children and tried not to watch the horrible images on CNN. Turned off NPR. Refrained from hugging my kids too tightly. Kept adult whispering to secluded late nights and early mornings. Tried not to think of the families who had suddenly lost someone. Tried not to wonder if the world was going to end.
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What your kid needs to know: tell your truth

Categories: Push my Button

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Do you say the truth of what is in your heart and mind? All the truth? How often? Hardly at all, sometimes, or all the time? No judgment here, but I am curious: how many of us are truly truthful?

Sometimes I suck at telling my truth. It’s not that I want to lie intentionally — I hate lying. I remember the first time as a kid I ever told a lie. I was about 8 and took a dollar from my mom’s purse and never told her. OMG, stealing AND lying. Bad, bad. For days I lay awake at night, cowering in my bed because I thought the Hand of Zeus would come down from the clouds and smite me while I slept. I remember being surprised when it didn’t. Lying still gives me that feeling, at least Capital-L Lying does. Smiting. **shiver**

There are other kinds of lying.
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What your kid needs to know: good manners make life better

Categories: This is Supposed to Be Fun

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I hit a highlight of parenting last week. Or maybe it was a lowlight, I don’t know. But for her 12th birthday, I sent my kid a book on manners.

But you know what? She needed it. And I decided to step up as her mother. No one else in her life is teaching her how to be around people, so it was clear to me that even from 3000 miles away I can have a super-positive impact on the adult my kid turns out to be. And manners make life better. No, wait. GOOD manners make life better.

I wish someone had taught me what I am trying to teach my kid. I had to learn it myself. The hard way.


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What your kid needs to know: Failure equals success

Categories: This is Supposed to Be Fun

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Last week when I wrote about sending our kids out of the country to make them more awesome people and to develop the superpowers that could eventually save the planet, some mighty big wheels started turning in my head. What do our kids need to know, I wondered, to be better people? To become global citizens? To have awesome lives? So I started making a list. A list of things every kid needs to know. Things we parents could be teaching. Things I am teaching my own kids. Endeavoring to teach them, anyway. And I’m going to share those things over the coming weeks. What your kid needs to know.

So let’s talk about failure, shall we? Oh, yuck. Failure. Nobody likes that. I sure don’t. In fact, I’ll go to great lengths to avoid it. But in avoiding failure, I am also avoiding its juicy gifts. And within failure, if you go at it with an open mind, there are tons of good stuffs to learn. Here are two examples:
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